Rupert Brooke’s and Wilfred Owen’s War Poems

“Dulce Et Decorum Est” – Wilfred Owen

In comparing and contrasting Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, we will look at their various works and see the comparisons and differences, if any, in opinions about World War One. First, let’s look at Wilfred Owen’s poems. In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Owen reveals the horrendous nature of World War One. To strip war of it is perceived glory, the poet features the utter degradation of war as the predominant thought and brought up the point in the most disconcerting and yet effectual way possible by the graphical portrayal of an individual soldier anguished in agonizing death.

In the beginning, Owen introduces a dark, grotesque picture of a group of soldiers so wounded by the war that even the tired, outstripped bombs can barely pierce their exhausted consciousness. He makes use of similes like “like old beggars under sacks” to demonstrate the pathetic state of the soldiers and to make the readers feel antipathy at the war recruiters and propagandists who rushed the once robust young soldiers, into war. Owen also makes use of verbs to illustrate how the young soldiers had been robbed of their youthfulness and vivacity – they “limped on blood-shod”, they were “blind”, “limped on blood-shod” “drunk with fatigue” and “deaf” with exhaustion (Owen (a) np).

In this poem, Owen sees nothing enchanting, gallant, or nationalistic in war, where bodies are butchered; soldiers lose their ability to see and hear and to function as normal people. These similes and verbs make the reader feel sorry for the soldiers and angry towards the war propagandists and politicians who gave the false representation that the war was to bring reward and brilliance. The quote, “The blood comes gargling from froth-corrupted lungs,” gives the audience a distressing sight of the unbelievable pain that the soldier underwent before he died (Earl 63). Through this horrific description filled with strong imageries, the poet effectively exposes the horror of World War 1 at its worst.

“Anthem for Doomed Youth” – Wilfred Owen

Just like in “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” in “Anthem for Doomed YouthOwen is still against war and begins the piece by showing a grating picture of soldiers dying on the battlefield; he quotes “who die as cattle.” This analogy shows the poet’s disdain for the inhumanity of war by alluding that at war the soldiers have no more importance than cows being butchered. The “noises of the “monstrous anger of the guns” are the soldiers’ only “passing-bells” and “the stuttering rifles rapid rattle” are their only hopes.

Their only chorus is the “shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells.” By using metaphors like “monstrous,” “shrill,” and “demented,” the poet stresses the shocks of the battle and he tells that the weapons are in charge of their deaths” (Owen (b) np). The last line of the sonnet moves the focus from the battlefront to the homefront with “bugles calling for them from sad shires.” “And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds,” the closing line, shows the conclusiveness of death, and the acknowledgment that this happening will reoccur again. The poem ends gently with pictures of anguish and grief. From the two poems, we can hold that Owen had a rational viewpoint of World War One, we were against the war.

“The Soldier” – Rupert Brooke

In contrast to Owen, Brooke has a nationalistic viewpoint of war. Brooke in his poem, “The Soldier,” narrates in a blissful tone of a soldier opting to die for his own nation. In the beginning, Brooke tells of the soldier saying that the foreign land where he will die will forever be a territory of England. The 5th line moves to focus on from the “foreign land back to England where the soldier was born and brought up; the soldier touts his homeland and personify England saying, “her flowers to love, her ways to roam / Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day.” He has unconditional love for his nation and is willing to give his life in gratitude to his nation, which has given him so much, so that the nation may go on and her people may get peace and comfort” (Brooke (b) 25).

The poem gives glory to the boldness of the England soldiers who fought in World War 1. Brooke points out that warfares are not always started for the reasons that one’s government tells them; but there is a bigger picture to look at, which is often read at the commemoration services of soldiers.

During World War 1, soldiers weren’t always able to carry back the remains of their dead comrades, but there were vast grounds that were dedicated to the unidentified soldiers and there were only white crosses with names on them, but the names on the crosses did not essentially match up with the bodies that were underneath them. “The soldier says, “If I should die…forever England” (lines 1-3), this means that is if he dies in battle he will forever remain in that foreign field and since his dead body is there, it is like that part of the field belongs to England, because he belongs to England” (Brooke (b) 45). The poem shows the poet’s determination to go to war and worry about dying since sees the war as a worthy cause (Roy 51).

“Peace” – Rupert Brooke

In his other poem, “Peace,” Brooke says war is something that is life-giving. He makes use of the metaphors such as, “caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping” to illustrate the way that war can bring back life and vivacity into a “world grown old, cold and weary”. He suggests that body functioning is made stronger by war “with handmade sure, clear eye”. Although Brooke’s point makes some sense, this is in contrast to Wilfred Owen who asserts that war cannot be life-giving given the human carnage brought by war. However, Brooke’s viewpoint of war can be said to reflect his personal experience of war; he fought in the trenches but succumbed from blood poisoning heading to his first battle. Brooke’s works demonstrate his naïve perception of the realities of World War 1 (Silkin 102).

Comparisons and contrasts

Rupert Brooke had an idealistic perception of World War One. In “The soldier” and “Peace,” Brooke glorifies and idealizes the war and thought it was an obligation for all young men to “Fall in” and join the army and also honorable for the soldiers to fight for their nation. On the contrary, Wilfred Owen had a realistic perception of war and thought it was horrifying that the soldiers succumbed to death over petty national issues.

Both Owen’s antiwar protests, “Dulce et Decorum est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” show his bitter sorrow towards the war. Owen wrote “Dulce et Decorum Est” with the intention of portraying a realistic viewpoint of war and how many young men being recruited into the army endured suffering and even succumbed to death over minor misunderstandings over two potent countries. Owen highlights the horror and cruelty of war and does not at all advocate for war.

Conclusion

The two poets compare in that they both use their own knowledge and experience to demonstrate to the readers how soldiers face war and the effects of war on the soldiers. They are both successful in driving their individual opinions, though they both give very different images of War. Although the contexts of these four poems form their basis on the same subject, war, the poets try to express very different thoughts, opinions, and messages, through very different means. However, the difference between the two enables the readers to perceive the realities of World War One from two very diverse viewpoints.

Works Cited

Brooke, Rupert. “The Soldier.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Twentieth Century and After. Vol. F. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: Norton, 2006.

Brooke, Rupert. “Peace.” Warpoetry.co.uk. 2004. Web.

Earl, Martin. A Poet Goes to War. Bozeman: Big Sky Books, Montana State University, 1970. Print.

Owen, Wilfred. “Dulce and Decorum Est”. The First World War Poetry Digital Archive. 1999. Web.

Owen, Wilfred. “Anthem for Doomed Youth.” The First World War Poetry Digital Archive. 1999. Web.

Roy, Pinaki. “The Pities of War: A Brief Overview of the First World War British Poets and Poetry.” The Atlantic Critical Review Quarterly (International), Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010: 40–56. Print.

Silkin, Jon. Out of battle: the poetry of the Great War. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. Print.